Sunday, December 31, 2006

Last entry of 2006

The weather seems to play with us at the moment. Each day is a complete contrast to the previous one, sunshine on Saturday gave way to rain and storms on Sunday, and who knows what’s in store for Monday.

After feeling totally wiped out after Friday’s run I did question my training. I certainly don’t want to fall into the overtraining trap, but one tough run does not cause overtraining. I was slightly apprehensive for Saturday’s 90 minutes, and initially the concerns were well founded. The legs felt very heavy and I really had to drag myself along for the run. After about 4.5 miles I came across a football pitch with a dirt track around it, and on the spur of the moment decided to do a few laps. After two or three laps I suddenly seemed to shake off the fatigue and from then on I felt much better. After five laps I decided to do some straights and curves, partly because I wanted to get the legs moving a bit before Monday’s 5k, and partly because I hadn’t done any strides all week. This kind of strides workout is different to my usual one, normally I have much longer breaks between the fast bits. It went well, though my heart rate did creep upwards with every lap. I did 6 more laps of that, making it 12 strides and 12 recoveries. At least I think I did, I lost count at one stage. There was a guy cycling clockwise on the track while I was doing counter-clockwise loops. He nearly did the same pace as me, after each half lap we seemed to cross at nearly the same spot – though I did work a lot harder than he did, obviously. I still had to run the 4.5 miles home again, of course, but I was very happy with the workout.

After feeling so revitalised, I expected another good run on Sunday, but you don’t always get what you want. The weather had turned decidedly nasty again, though the winds did not quite reach the 60-70 mph that had been predicted (that might still happen later today of course). I tried to take it a little bit easier than I would have on a normal 60 minutes run to save the legs for tomorrow’s race, but I ended up doing a decent pace anyway, especially considering the conditions. The legs felt surprisingly heavy again, as if someone had attached a brick to each hamstring (I checked but couldn’t find it). Oh well. I did feel slightly better as the run wore on, and finished in reasonable shape.

I managed to pick up a spanking new pair of Asics Nimbus in a half price sale at Arnotts, which made my day. The old pair of Nimbuses had been officially retired on my last run before driving to Dublin a week ago. They had lasted for 520 miles, which is the longest I’ve ever worn a pair. I had a few twinges and tweaks in both Achilles tendons over the last 2 or 3 weeks before that, which is my usual sign of needing a new pair of runners. I’ve been feeling fine since.

Lola had a tummy bug over the last few days, with the usual unpleasantness that accompanies that kind of thing. At one stage the poor thing said to her mummy “I think I’m going to die”. Thankfully she’s better now; she seems to be fully recovered. When mummy baked a chocolate cake yesterday, she licked the mixing bowl clean, and she’s been fine ever since, which is more than you can say about the clothes she wore at the time. I hope we can remove those chocolate stains.

Happy New Year everyone! I wish you a good and successful 2007, and may all your PRs be shattered. My personal resolution: run more, run harder, and don’t get injured. I’m not asking for much, do I?

30 Dec: 11 miles, 1:33, 8:27 pace, avg. HR 150, including 12x100 strides
31 Dec: 8 miles, 1:02, 7:45 pace, avg. HR 153

Weekly mileage: 75+ (a new record and I didn’t even think about it until I added up the numbers)
December mileage: 278
2006 mileage: 2562

Friday, December 29, 2006

Just enough energy to type

Talk about changing weather conditions. Thursday was a beautiful morning with sunshine and warm temperatures all around. I even wore shorts and t-shirt for my run, and it was definitely the right choice for these conditions (though I did get a few funny looks from people wrapped up like on a Polar expedition). To top it all I wore sunglasses as well, and I hadn’t used them in months. I had planned another tempo run, but at slightly less intensity than on Tuesday; I don’t want to overdo things.

I tried to keep the heart rate in the low 160s, and it worked reasonably well, apart from one mile. That one was on a slight gradient, and I checked the HRM, 165. I backed off ever so slightly, checked again, 167. I backed off some more, checked again, 169. At that stage I really did slow down, and it soon got back towards 162 or so where I wanted it to be. I was quite surprised when I got back home to find that I had done the run in exactly the same time as on Tuesday, despite running at a lower HR. Funny that, not that I’m complaining. I certainly worked hard, my legs were slightly sore all day.

The weather turned foul during the evening, and we had storms, rain and gale force winds all night. It felt just like being back home in Kerry, but I had hoped to have left that kind of weather behind for some time. I woke several times during the night, each time hoping that the storms would subside soon. Well, my wish didn’t quite get fulfilled, but the worst was indeed behind us when I left at 7:30 am. It was still quite miserable, and most of the initial 5 miles were straight into the wind, with the rain coming straight into my face. The legs were still heavy from the previous day and the bike path was covered in puddles. My feet got a good soak early on, which didn’t help. It got better once I reached Ballybrack and turned slightly away from the wind. I ran up the big hill in Killiney. Right at the top is an obelisk and you can enjoy a beautiful view, though I was too tired, too cold and too short-sighted to actually enjoy it, and just kept going. I followed a slightly different route on the way back down, but was soon back on the same cycle path that is becoming quite familiar to me. The wind had subsided by now (typically, when it would have been on my back), and as I ran back towards Stillorgan I really started to feel very tired. When I got close to home I checked the time and saw that I would make it home in just over 2 hours. This wasn’t quite long enough and I added a little loop around the reservoir and the Luas station, and got back after 2:18, feeling utterly exhausted.

It was 10 minutes shorter than my long run last week, but I really felt that I couldn’t do any more. Thursday’s tempo run had taken a lot out of my legs, and all the muscle fibres were complaining. If you’ve followed the discussion with the Mystery Coach on Mike’s blog then you know that this effect is a good thing apparently, and is in fact desired. If I understand it correctly, the tempo run will exhaust your usual muscle fibres, which will force new fibres to come active on your long run. This will hurt, but will build up your stamina over the next few weeks. All well and good, but right now I’m utterly exhausted, and the discussion was aimed at guys who run their marathons an hour faster than me. I’m not sure how much of that is relevant to someone at my level, but I think it will benefit me in the long term.

28 Dec: 8.25 miles, 1:02:30, 7:34 pace, avg. HR 160
29 Dec: 15.5 miles, 2:18, 8:54 pace, avg. HR 151

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas Running

Someone recently commented that I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of good advice recently. That definitely was no exaggeration. Mike has helped a lot, the other Mike gave tons of good advice before the Dublin marathon, and Andrew has started to hand out advice by the bucket load recently. I hope none of you guys are charging coaching fees, because if you do I’ll owe you more than I’ve got in my account at present (or any other moment in time, come to think of it). I keep trying to implement all the advice, and I know that it will make me a better runner over time.

I didn’t get much sleep up to Christmas Day. I spent quite some time preparing the presents, including assembling a doll’s house for Lola late on Christmas Eve, and was woken at 5:30 am (!!!) by two extremely excited kids who were in no way inclined of going back to bed. They spent the next 2 hours unpacking Christmas presents and playing with their new toys, then Niamh and me tried to get some more sleep, but Shea had turned into an Antichrist by then and it took another two hours until he had screamed himself back into sleep. I got about one more hour of sleep after that, then I awoke to a very silent house and used the opportunity to sneak out for a 90 minutes run. I have switched to timed runs now rather than distance, which is very handy considering we’re in Dublin now and I wouldn’t be aware of the miles covered. The house was still quiet on my return, which saved me from the guilt trips.

After Andrew’s comment on the HR for ½ and ¾ efforts I thought I would have to increase the effort for the tempo runs, and I wasn’t exactly looking forward to that; the last tempo effort had seemed hard enough, to be honest. Well, Niamh gave me a “sports MP3 player” for Christmas (it includes a stopwatch, and you can still hear the noise around you even with the music on), and I gave it a spin on Tuesday. I had planned a ½ effort run, but not far from the house I spotted a runner ahead of me, which awoke my competitive instincts. After catching that one, I saw another one in the distance and gave chase. That’s just what I needed for a tempo run: Prey! Well, what I did end up with was a tempo run with the middle section at a HR of between 170 and 175, which definitely accounts for ¾ effort, and the realisation that Bruce Dickinson at full blast in you ears can very effectively drown out the painful screams from your calf muscles, even at higher paces.

Due to a death in the (extended) family we had to leave at 10:30 for the removal, which prompted me to get up before 7 o’clock and head out for the first of many mid-week 15 milers in this program. It was still dark outside and I considered bringing my headlamp (yes, Michelle, I do own one), but Dublin’s roads are well lit these days, or so I thought. What wasn’t too clever was forgetting to bring the gloves, but I had already closed the door behind me when I realised, and I didn’t want to wake up anyone to let me back in. To be honest, I managed fine without them. The street lightning worked well until I came to a, well, let's say less affluent part of Dublin called Ballybrack that was still covered in a blanket of darkness. Note to the council: it would make a lot of sense to light up the poorer parts of the City as well! I managed to get through and all of a sudden the driveways started to get bigger and bigger, and the houses turned into mansion, so I figured I had left Ballybrack behind me and was now in the considerably posher Killiney. There was a hill there, full with medieval walls and an old castle near the top, which made for a nice reward for the climb.

Warning: Very bad language ahead.
A big Fuck You goes out to the jerk at the garage in Ballybrack who refused an obviously distressed runner (me!) the use of his toilet. What the fuck is your problem, didn’t you get any presents from mummy or what? And next time you talk to someone, at least look at them instead of wiping the counter with a bored look on your fucking ugly face before you say no after a 10-second silence for effect. Wanker! Arsehole! Fuckwit!
End of Very bad language

Sorry for that. I feel better now. I had to deal with those issues …, err, no, I’ll spare you the details this time.

I made it back home in exactly 2 hours, and google says it was 13.65 miles. I would have thought it was more, but who am I to argue? So much for this being a 15-miler. Once more Bruce Dickinson and his mates had kept me company for the run. I used to pride myself for running without music in my ears for a long time, but I could get used to that.

25 Dec: 10.5 miles, 1:31, 8:40 pace, avg. HR 147
26 Dec: 8.25 miles, 1:02:30, 7:34 pace, avg. HR 163, middle 3.2 miles in 22:55 (7:10 pace, and HR around 172 I guess)
27 Dec: 13.65 miles, 2:00, 8:47 pace, avg. HR 145

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Family Time

Shouldn’t you be celebrating Christmas with your loved ones instead of reading some stranger’s blog now? As for me, I’m taking advantage of the fact that Gaga has taken the children out for a walk. I’ve just wrapped all the presents (apart from one that I missed), and have a few minutes to write my entry.

So much to remember, let me think. I had to get up awfully early on Friday fro my long run. At 5 o’clock I was up, at 5:20 I was out on the road (and Cian had taken my place in our bed). I chose to run around Caragh Lake again, with an added loop around the Devil’s Elbow. I decided to run clockwise again. If I ran anti-clockwise I might be tempted to cut two miles off the loop by going via Ard-na-Sidhe rather than around the Devil’s elbow at the end. The clockwise loop starts with that loop, and the temptation to cut the run short is removed. I needn’t have worried, I felt good all the way. The legs were a bit heavy initially, probably a hangover from Thursday’s tempo run, and the first 3 miles were at a rather pedestrian 9:20 pace. I didn’t speed up consciously, and I didn’t have a way of measuring my pace in the middle miles, but the last 5 miles passed in about 41 minutes (roughly 8:15 pace). I’m not entirely sure how long the run was, somewhere between 17 and 17.5 miles, so I wrote down 17.25 miles in my log, which would make it 8:34 average pace, and it sounds believable enough.

I had to hurry on Saturday because we had yet to pack for our journey to Dublin, so I quickly dispatched another devil’s elbow loop, and ran home as quickly as I could, without over-exerting myself though. When Andrew stated that the heart adapts quicker than the legs, he wasn’t kidding. The average HR was 155, which until recently would have said a run at comfortable, if slightly brisk(-ish) pace. Now the HR still says the same, but the calves say “it hurts, it hurts”. Apparently it’s something I better get used to. I had another look into Lydiard, and I think it might be what he calls ½ effort, with Thursday’s 163 HR being ¾ effort, and the 144 from Friday 1/4 effort. This may or may not be correct, who knows.

The drive to Dublin was long but eventless. Niamh did question if I really had to bring along 3 pairs of running shoes, 6 running socks and fill half of my suitcase with various running apparel, but my answer was that of course it was necessary. And all that just because I apparently didn’t bring my nice outfits for the family dinner. I tried to reason that there will be 3 young children at the table, and the fancy outfits better stay elsewhere, but it didn’t cut the ice. Ah well.

I was up before any other adults today to run 7.5 miles before anyone could object. It took ages to make breakfast for the kids, settle them in front of a DVD, and try to stop the fights, but I managed to sneak out eventually. I ran by time rather than distance, but Google maps says 7.5 miles, and who am I to argue?

I don’t know if I can run tomorrow, the family pressure might be too much. I’ll see.

22 Dec: 17.25 miles, 2:28, 8:34 pace, avg. HR 144
23 Dec: 8.5 miles, 1:08, 8:00 pace, avg. HR 155
24 Dec: 7.5 miles, 1:01, 8:08 pace, avg. HR 155

Weekly mileage: 68

And Merry Christmas to Everyone!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Working on it

The kids are getting more and more excited by the day, Santa is nearly here, and all they want is for the days to pass. Christmas is a truly exciting time for young children. The one thing that they don’t really subscribe to is being good. I think they managed to work out last year that the presents will come anyway.

The alarm was supposed to wake me at 5:55 on Wednesday, but the boys managed to beat that by half an hour, and after making breakfast for Shea and trying to get Cian to be quiet it was pretty much time to get up – just as the boys were heading back to bed (mummy and daddy’s bed, that is). The weather has definitely improved a lot recently; there was no sign of rain and very little wind, but it was quite cold. For the first time this year I wore running tights, and two layers at the top, and I got it right, anything less would have been too cold. Like on Monday I tried to run relaxed and easy but still at a decent clip. It worked very well on the first half, and on the return leg I added 12x100 strides into the mix. This of course increased my average heart rate, but once again I was quite pleased with the low reading at the end of the workout. The one thing bothering me slightly was the darkness, it was still pitch dark by the time I got back home, but there’s nothing I can do about it but wait.

On Tuesday I was slightly dismayed at my low HR at what should have been a faster run, and especially after reading Andrew's comment I made sure to work harder today. I made a mistake when choosing the route. It had stopped raining for two or three days and I figured all the dirt roads should now be easily accessible and passable again. I wanted to get off the asphalt surface, but I miscalculated. It turns out that the road was still wet and muddy and uneven, and running the dirt segment in the dark wasn’t the best idea. Since this was supposed to be a tempo run I still tried to push the pace, until I very nearly twisted my ankle. On a slippery slope my foot turned one way and my leg the other, and I don’t know how I managed to get out of the situation without hurting badly. I did heed the warning and slowed down until I got back to the proper road again, which was only half a mile away at that point. I accelerated again and finished the rest of the run at a good pace. I probably overdid it a bit, because the HR was a bit higher that expected, and I must be careful not to run too hard. Still, I was happier with today’s run than Tuesday’s.

My right Achilles is bothering my a little bit. It’s not really hurting, just a slight feeling of discomfort, and I can feel it every evening and on occasions in the morning as well. The one time it doesn’t bother me at all is when I’m running, which is why I’m not too worried about it. But I will keep an eye on the situation.

I’ve got two more days in Kerry before we drive up to Dublin once again. I hope I’ll be able to keep the training going day in day out, despite the predictable objections of my mother-in-law, who seems convinced that I’m about to drop down dead from over-exertion. She’s a lovely woman, really, but her constant whining about my running can grate sometimes (and no, she doesn’t read this blog).

20 Dec: 11 miles, 1:33, 8:27 pace, avg. HR 147, including 12x100 strides
21 Dec: 7 miles, 52:41, 7:31 pace, avg. HR 163

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Making progress

After crossing the finish line in Dublin I was actually in a conundrum. For at least a year I had known perfectly well that I was capable of running 3:30, and I knew that if I trained hard enough, I would reach that goal sooner or later. The problem therefore was, what next? Would I be able to continue improving? Or had I reach a plateau from where I would slowly degrade as I’m dragging my ageing body from race to race? But I’m not one to mull around, and after two weeks break I got stuck into training once more. I made a few changes, and now, 5 weeks later, I can already see some benefits.

I’m getting close to my mileage target, and this week has three runs with double-digit mileage. Thus I dragged myself out of bed excruciatingly early on Monday morning for a recovery 10 mile run. If you’ve ever followed the Pfitzinger plan you know that recovery runs are short (4-6 miles) runs that are run very slowly (9:30-ish for me). Lydiard does things differently; his recovery runs are much longer. I remember once querying Mike in disbelief about an 18-mile recovery run he had just finished. I’m not at that mileage yet, but Monday’s 10-mile recovery run was definitely by far the longest “recovery” I’ve ever attempted. I was unsure how fast I should run. I just concentrated on striding relaxed and easy. I knew that I was quite a bit faster than on the old Pfitzinger-style recovery run, but at no time did I feel that I was going faster than I should.

When I got home, I checked my HR and blurted out “bloody hell!”. A heart rate of 142 might not be very low for the likes of Andrew, but I certainly have never even come close to such a low rate for a run at faster than 9:00 pace. This is a remarkable jump (fall?) in my HR in only 5 weeks of training. I attribute it to the 7-days running week, but I’m definitely surprised at the apparently rapid progress I seem to be making.

Today was a different kind of run, faster and shorter. I opted for the water witch loop, but ran it clockwise rather than the counter-clockwise loop that I’ve done on every occasion so far. This meant that the mile-long climb was from mile 3.5 to 4.5, rather than from mile 1.5 to 2.5. It was so foggy that I initially struggled to make out the road and had to concentrate on not running off into the bog by mistake. It was also rather cold, maybe 3C/37F, but if you take the wind chill into account it felt a good bit colder than that. I should have worn pants rather than shorts, and a second layer on top, because I felt uncomfortably cold for most of the run, apart from the climb, when I really had to put in some effort. I checked my HR again when I came home, and in marked contrast to yesterday was slightly dismayed at the low reading. Only 154? I thought I worked harder than that! Running at sub-8:00 pace on such a hilly route does require some effort from me, and I would have expected a HR of around 160 for this. Maybe I’m really getting fitter, but maybe it also means I should push myself harder and harder?

Yet more to ponder.

18 Dec: 10 miles, 1:26, 8:36 pace, avg. HR 142
19 Dec: 6.75 miles, 53:29, 7:55 pace, avg. HR 154

Christmas Tags

It must be that time of the year again. Jack tagged me.

1. Egg nog or hot chocolate? Hot chocolate

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? wrap

3. Coloured lights on tree/house or white? white

4. Do you hang mistletoe? no

5. When do you put your decorations up? When Niamh tells me to

6. What is your favourite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? Niamh’s nut roast (vegetarian alternative to turkey)

7. Favourite holiday memory as a child? When the parents stopped fighting for a minute or two

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? My evil sisters told me when I was three or four

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? No.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? Niamh and the kids do that these days

11. Snow! Love it or dread it? It’s pure love

12. Can you ice skate? No, and since a friend of mine got the tip of one finger sliced off, I have no inclination of ever changing that

13. Do you remember your favourite gift? My first computer (pathetic, I know)

14. What's the most important thing about the holidays for you? Family time

15. What is your favourite holiday dessert? Anything with chocolate.

16. What is your favourite holiday tradition? Spending as much time as possible with Niamh and the children

17. What tops your tree? An angel

18. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving? Giving. I’ve got three young kids.

19. What is your favourite Christmas song? “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues

20. Candy canes? No thank you

21. Favourite Christmas movie? May I say Bad Santa?

22. What do you leave for Santa? You’re kidding, right?

I have to tag five others now, don't I? Ok then, Liam, Michelle, Jeanne, Waddler and Phil. But don't feel obliged.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Who’s Counting Calories?

The weather has definitely taken a turn for the better. There is still plenty of room for improvement, but after the storm we’ve had to endure over the last few weeks, a bit of rain with only a little bit of breeze is a massive improvement.

I slept in on both Saturday and Sunday, and left at around 9:30 for both runs. I did notice one drawback of running so late. Due to the fact that I no longer eat anything before running I ended up feeling a bit hungry out on the road. Both times the empty feeling went away after a mile or two, and I felt good for the rest of the run. So far I definitely don’t feel any bad effects from running with an empty stomach, but I haven’t attempted anything longer than 15 miles yet. I’ll see how it goes in the next few weeks, but I think I’m on to something here.

I finished the week with two shorter but faster efforts. I felt quite sluggish initially yesterday, and didn’t think I’d be under 8:00 pace. I was pleasantly surprised to find afterwards that I had actually run faster than on Thursday, which was supposed to be the fastest run of the week but hadn’t quite worked out that way. At one stage the sun even threatened to show her face, but she changed her mind and stayed behind the cloud cover. I did see a beautiful rainbow at one stage, but while being pretty it was also a harbinger of the next rain shower to come. Ah well.

I finished the week with a run around the devil’s elbow, which included that wicked climb out of Ard-na-Sidhe that I also had to endure at the beginning of Friday’s effort. In some ways today was the opposite. Back then I constantly had to remind myself that it was supposed to be a tempo run and speed up. Today I had to remind myself that this was supposed to be a moderate run and had to put the breaks on again and again. I felt really good and didn’t want to spoil the party by slowing down too much, just enough so that the legs wouldn’t wear out, which didn’t quite work. But I guess I’ll take a day like today anytime. There’s nothing wrong with feeling good.

Niamh surprised me with a veritable feast of freshly-pressed juice, scones and a chocolate cake when I came home (eat your heart out, Mike). I completely pigged out on the offerings. I bet I took in double the calories I had just burned off on the road. Ah well. I guess I’ll definitely take a day like today anytime. There’s nothing wrong with feeling good.

Something makes me think I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed the chocolate cake.

16 Dec: 6.25 miles, 48:09. 7:42 pace, avg. HR 159
17 Dec: 8.5 miles, 1:07, 7:52 pace, avg. HR 161

Weekly mileage: 61

Friday, December 15, 2006

That’s more like it

I know I’ve sounded like a broken record recently, constantly whining about the weather. I’ll try and put a stop to that, and if the weather remains the way it has been over the last two runs I’ll even be happy with it. Btw, is the phrase “broken record” still in use today, or is it antiquated? Do the young people today even know what a record is, never mind a broken one?

I got lucky with the weather yesterday. I left quite late, about 6:50am, and there was only a little bit of drizzle with hardly any wind. Great, the best conditions in weeks! I had planned a 7-mile tempo effort, but I kept losing focus. I pushed hard on the uphill, and again and again I’d relax on the downhill and forget to pick it up again, until I eventually remembered that this was supposed to be a tempo run. As a result the average pace wasn’t great, there is plenty of room for improvement. Mind, it’s still the fastest run I’ve attempted since the marathon, apart from the 5k race of course. Later during the day it became apparent just how lucky I had been, because we got hit by a major storm front, it really was bad. So bad that the kids’ climbing frame in the garden was blown over, and it takes a lot of force to tip over that structure. Our roof has also suffered some damage, but luckily it’s not leaking.

After last week’s stumble on the Kerry Way for my long run I had decided to run around Caragh Lake for this week’s “long“ effort (I know, I know, they’re not long runs yet). This used to be a major undertaking when I started running. In fact, for my first ever marathon, this was my longest training run. It’s only 15.5 miles, but with two demanding climbs, one of 200 meters elevation in about 2 miles, and one of 100 meters in a mile, plus several smaller hills. About a year ago I drove the circuit once with my mom to show her the stunning scenery, only to come across a bull in the middle of the road. Yes, a real life size bull, as in huge big mountain of ill-tempered testosterone laden monster with horns. This kinda put me off running on this road again, but as far as I know the bovine population is not out and about this time of the year, and the road should be reasonably safe. Weather-wise it was a mixed bag, the wind had stopped completely, but it was raining heavily. I don’t mind the rain, as long as it’s not windy, and compared to the conditions I had to endure over the last few weeks, I’ll take today’s rain any time. I know that Michelle loves the old place names, so I’ll give you the low-down of all the townlands I’ve covered.

The run starts at home in good old Tooreenasliggaun and follows the main Caragh Lake road towards Glannagilliagh where the twins go to school. There you take a sharp right turn towards Ard-na-Sidhe, and after a while the road leaves the lakeside and starts a big steep climb towards Oolagh East. Take a left turn at the T-junction, and continue in southwesterly direction to Oolagh West, and we’ve already reached the highest point of the whole circuit. I hope you like the isolation, because for about 3 or 4 miles you won’t come across any settlement, or even an isolated house. Then we get into the woods of Ahane, ever downhill, and run past an old graveyard. (As I was passing this, I heard a noise. Of course it was just a harmless animal, but it seriously spooked me out. Remember, it was raining, pitch dark, and I was the only living human being within a mile or two. I quickened the pace for a bit). We follow the road downwards to Dromdoory, and get into the beautiful Lickeen Woodland, where we eventually cross the Caragh River (on it’s way towards the lake) via the Blackstone Bridge, and we’ve already reached halfway point. Then we climb again in the townland of Drom East (townland? It’s only one house, maybe two) and crest the hill at Bunglasha. Another left turn leads us downhill again, and one mile later we’re in Lauhir and finally back at the shores of Caragh Lake. We now follow the lake on its western side, though there are a few hills on the way, first at Treangarriv and another one at Cosha. There we can already see the black shape of the water witch in front of us, which we round at Callahaniska and Commaun. Continue onwards, cross the Caragh River once more (now on the opposite side of the lake, on its short journey towards the sea), and at Quaybaun we climb for the last time and reach the main Caragh Lake road, and we end up back home in Tooreenasliggaun where a hot shower awaits us.

When I said last week that the scenery isn’t as nice as along the Kerry Way, I just showed how spoiled I was. In the mountains the scenery looks like it has been lifted straight out of “Lord of the Rings”, and the rest is through beautiful woods and then alongside Caragh Lake. It really is stunning, even in rain and darkness.

14 Dec: 7 miles, 54:12, 7:44 pace, avg. HR 159
15 Dec: 15.5 miles, 2:11, 8:27 pace, avg. HR 149

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I’ve said the weather can’t go on like this. Apparently I’m wrong. The weatherman from the Irish Times says, and I quote, “the current spell of stormy weather is likely to be of several months duration”. Several! Months!! Several Months!!! Surely Not!!!!

On Monday they had predicted that the next storm front would hit us on Wednesday. When I left the house on Tuesday morning, I thought they had been wrong, and the storm had turned up a day early. It was raining heavily and the wind was very strong, which made running up the water witch a real joy, as you can imagine. Apart from the howling winds the run was actually quite unremarkable, until I got home. As soon as I went through the door, my eyes started hurting. It got worse and worse, and then they started swelling up as well. I’m all too aware of the symptoms, it was yet another allergic reaction, but to what I don’t know. I looked really bad, and eventually took an anti-histamine tablet. Niamh didn’t want to let me go to work, but I started to feel better eventually; I got some funny looks in the office. The tablet made me drowsy, and I didn’t have the best day in the office, but the eyes felt better by the hour. One work colleague thought one farmer might have sprayed something dodgy on the fields I had passed, but there is no way of knowing. I’ve been though the whole experience before.

I still felt some residual itchiness today, but it’s mostly gone. What hasn’t gone is the storm front. It turns out the meteorologists were right after all, and Tuesday was just the prelude, today we got hit by the full force. It was really bad during the night; the kids all came into our bed one by one because they were scared. Luckily for me the rain had mostly stopped by 6:30 am, though the wind was as bad as ever. It made the first 5 miles of today’s run a challenge. Actually that’s a lie. Some parts of the Caragh Lake road were quite sheltered; it was over maybe 2 miles where I really had to fight against the wind. It got a lot easier after I turned around, now the wind was blowing me home. I added 10x100 strides into the return leg, but tried to run relaxed and slowly for the rest. It was still completely dark when I got home, we are obviously close to the shortest day of the year. I also noticed the first symptoms of a cold, sore throat, headache and light-headedness. I’ve taken Vitamin C and Echinacea and hope it will keep the actual cold at bay. It’s not just me, Niamh isn’t feeling too well either. The last few times I’ve had the early symptoms I managed to scrape by without getting sick, so I’m reasonably optimistic I might get away with it once more.

12 Dec: 6.75 miles, 56:22, 8:21 pace, avg. HR 156
13 Dec: 10 miles, 1:25, 8:30 pace, avg. HR 153

Monday, December 11, 2006

It can’t go on like This!

Really, it possibly can’t. The weather has been relentless. I know that Ireland, and especially the West Coast, isn’t exactly known for long hours of sunshine, but 4 weeks of storms, heavy rain and gale force winds are not the norm. After Saturday’s relative calm we had another two stormy days, and Wednesday is supposed to be really bad again. Everybody I know is moaning about the dreadful weather, even the people who don’t run several miles each morning.

Maybe I shouldn’t complain, by pure luck I managed to run in relatively benign conditions on both days, between bouts of storm. Sunday’s effort was rather late, I didn’t leave until 9:30 in the morning, just when the storm that had been ravaging all night had started to abate. It wasn’t too bad, the rain had already stopped by the time I hit the road, and even when it returned it was manageable. I finally relented and wore long sleeves, but I had chosen the wrong day for that, because I was uncomfortably warm after a few miles, and regretted my choice of apparel. I will get it right one day, surely.

The storm must have blown itself out overnight, because by the time I left for my run this morning it had stopped raining, even if it was very windy. I can’t complain too much, because once more the rain returned with a vengeance later during the day. I managed a good clip, and I think my running pace has more or less returned to the level I had before the marathon. I was especially pleased with the fact that my heart rate was quite low compared to previous days, despite running at sub-8:00 pace.

Apart from the appalling weather I’m quite happy with the way the running has been going so far. All the aches and pains that plagued me in the last few weeks before the marathon have gone away. I do feel the odd twinge in my left achilles, but never during running, only in the evening, and even that seems to have gone away lately. I have run for 29 days in a row, and don’t think I will stop that sequence anytime soon. The mileage has increased steadily, as planned, and so far I feel good. Long may it continue.

10 Dec: 8.5 miles, 1:09, 8:07 pace, avg. HR 162 (hilly)
11 Dec: 7 miles, 55:39, 7:57 pace, avg. HR 153

Weekly mileage: 55+ miles

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Ever so slightly hung over

For all the planning I did for this week’s schedule I didn’t even notice that I put the two highest mileages back-to-back. I guess it doesn’t really matter yet, because 9 and 12.5 miles aren’t exactly long runs, but you live and learn. I try to look at it as one of those back-to-back workouts that Mike used to do so successfully before his marathon, but I can’t quite convince myself.

I do have to admit that the legs felt rather sluggish initially on Friday, after Thursday’s 9 miles and an hour of football 12 hours previously. But they did come round eventually, and I managed to enjoy the run. The main problem was the surface. I had chosen the Kerry Way as my route, and I had initially planned to have my weekly long run along this loop, but I might have to reconsider. Four weeks of heavy rain has turned the dirt road into a slippery mess, and at 7 am in the morning the light was too dim to make out all the stones and puddles in good time. Once I did indeed stumble and fell to the floor. I managed to break the fall with my hands and avoided any real damage, but it did sting for a while. After three or so miles on this surface I finally came back onto asphalt, and managed a noticeable increase in pace. I might choose the loop around Caragh Lake for next week’s long run. It’s not quite as scenic, but it’s all on proper road surface, and since the weather is not going to improve, it is most likely the better option. I also hadn’t taken my own advice on wearing long sleeves; my uncovered arms had turned deep red by the time I got back home (have a look at the photo and notice the difference in colour between arm and hand. You can also make out the scraped knuckles from the fall). The wind and rain really make it a lot colder than you would think from just looking at the thermometer.

Cian celebrated his third birthday on Friday, and even though he certainly enjoyed the presents, he was in complete denial about being 3. I think he needs some time to get used to the idea of being a really big boy now. Mummy made an absolutely delicious cake for the occasion. We also had the office Christmas party on Friday night, but I managed to restrain myself and got home at about 1 am standing mostly upright. Still, I didn’t feel particularly good this morning. We had to drive to Limerick and Niamh had decided to leave at 10 am, forcing me out of bed at 8 to get in 6 miles. The first 2 miles were hard work, I felt dehydrated and the legs didn’t want to turn over. Eventually I persuaded them to put in some effort, which is reflected in the time. The first 3 miles took 24:58 (8:19 pace) but the return leg only 22:18 (7:26 pace), despite being into the wind (and rain). I was quite pleased with that, especially considering my less-than-perfect preparations the night before. It really is not easy to train consistently this time of the year. The storms are predicted to come back for Sunday and Monday.

8 Dec: 12.5 miles, 1:47, 8:33 pace, avg. HR 151
9 Dec: 6 miles, 47:16, 7:53 pace, avg. HR 159

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Marc asked a question about my scheduling. Well, for the time being I'm increasing my mileage by about 5 miles/week, and the long run by 2 miles/week, and each week is planned around those parameters. I will continue to do this until I'm around 75 miles, and from then on I intend to run 60-90-60-120-60-120/180-90 minutes each and every week (that's from Lydiard's book) "for as long as possible". If that seems to become too easy I might increase my mileage to pacify Mike and Andrew, but to be honest I doubt it. I might include a hill phase, but I haven't come to a decision yet. That's most of the plan. I don't think I'll be doing much speedwork, if any. I'm training for an ultra, and speed won't be on top of my agenda.

Phil, on the other hand, was more concerned about my far-North geographical location and the cold weather that goes with it. Rest easy, Phil, not only do we get mild winters because we live right beside the sea, we are also bang in the middle of where the Gulf stream hits, thus raising the average temperature to a much higher level than other areas at the same latitude. At the moment the temperatures in the morning are generally around 8C/46F, but that's not taking wind chill into account.

Yesterday the weather Gods had some mercy on us, and while it was very windy, it didn't rain at all during the whole run. I still got wet, because one of the flooded sections in the road that I had encountered the day before was still flooded, and my feet got wet and cold. At least I only had to cross it once on my way around the water witch. And while you should never compare workouts with previous runs, I couldn't resist and look at last week's logs. Yesterday I ran the whole loop 90 seconds faster than the week before, and I don't think I ran any harder. The weather was nicer, but I do think that my conditioning is on the way back up again, and my recovery from the marathon is basically complete. Sunday's race might have had a positive effect on my legs, too.

To describe today's condition, let's just quote from the weather station, shall we? "Stormy over much of the country today, with damaging gusts of 100 to 130 km/h, but not quite so windy in northern parts. Widespread showers of rain or hail, with scattered thunderstorms, and some heavy downpours. Highest temperatures of 8 C to 11 C.

Severe Wind Warning
Gale force southwest winds through Munster, much of Leinster and possibly parts of South Connaught with damaging gusts of 120 Km/h in places."

For once they were right. Kerry is part of Munster, and we took the full force. I have never run in such a heavy wind. I didn't even dare running in the wood because I was afraid of falling branches, and preferred to battle the elements out in the open. I can tell you, when the wind blows the rain into your face at such force, it hurts. On the other hand it was much easier after the turn-around point; I was practically sailing home. Then, back home and in the shower I noticed some minor damage to the skin on various parts of my body. I'll spare you the details, but next time the conditions are as bad as that, I will change two things: I will wear long sleeves, and I will wear a second set of underwear. Let's leave it at that.

6 Dec: 6.75 miles, 55:45, 8:15 pace, avg. HR 155
7 Dec: 9 miles, 1:13, 8:06 pace, avg. HR 161, included 7x100 strides

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Home Sweet Home

We had a hectic Sunday after the race; Cian will be 3 on Friday, and guess who was all of a sudden roped in to buy presents for him from Nana and Gaga as well as some aunties? His favourite things are Lunar Jim, Cars and helicopters in general. The one toy I couldn’t find was the Cars one. You would expect the merchandise from a Disney film to be available just about everywhere, wouldn’t you? “Come on, let me waste my money on your overpriced merchandise!” I shouted to no avail. But of course he was happy anyway. In fact, he spent the last two nights cuddling his Lunar Jim toy.

Back to running. I managed 5.5 miles in Dublin on Monday before we set off on our journey back to Kerry. Like the other Dublin runs this weekend it was windy but didn’t rain. I was quite surprised how easy it felt, I expected at least some soreness from the race, but no, I seem to have absorbed that without troubles. The only problem was that I went out at around 8:30 am, which meant of course that I ran in the middle of rush hour. I usually don’t have that problem in Kerry, and I hadn’t even thought of it. It shows how much I’ve forgotten about city live since we turned back into country pumpkins three years ago.

The journey back was uneventful but tiring, and I wasn’t sure how many miles I would feel up to this morning. I eventually settled on an easy 7, and set the alarm accordingly. I didn’t need it, 5 minutes before it was time to get up I woke up hearing the wind and rain howling outside the window. That’s just great, isn’t it? Despite being tempted to snuggle back into my blanket I got up, got ready and went out, to be surprised by a calm morning with a brilliant moon shining brightly just above the horizon. It was so bright that I left the lamp behind. The nice scenery didn’t last, of course, the wind was very strong as soon as I was out of the woods, and within 2 miles the rain was back. Two sections of the road were flooded, one up to an inch and the other one ankle deep, and Good God was that water cold! Since this was an out-and-back course I had the dubious pleasure of running through both sections twice; no wonder my toes were frozen. I eventually returned home to a silent and peaceful house, even the boys were still asleep, almost unheard of at 7:45 am. It’s always nice to know that nobody missed me; I feel guilty when I come back from my run to find that Niamh had to prepare breakfast for all the kids on her own.

After some humming and hawing I came up with a schedule for this week. I moved the long run back to Friday, because that’s the day of the week that’s earmarked as the long one, just like last time. The mileage for the other days doesn’t really matter much yet. I keep increasing the weekly mileage by 5 miles, 2 of which are used to increase the duration of the long run. Eventually I want to end up at around 80 miles with one long run of 20 and another one around 15, though I should be running by time, not distance. I’ll get there in January, but I do hope the weather will be more benign by then. I don’t remember it being so bad 12 months ago.

4 Dec: ~5.5 miles, 45:30, ~8.16 pace, avg. HR 158, very windy
5 Dec: 7 miles, 58:41, 8:23 pace, avg. HR 155, very wet and windy

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Jingle Bells 5k

We spent Friday afternoon driving all the way up to Dublin once more. I know the road so well by now that at one stage I looked up, saw a few lights ahead of me, and immediately knew “That’s Borris-in-Ossory”. But thankfully I managed to wriggle out of the “Sound of Music” production, because someone had to babysit Cian. Whew!

Saturday was a bit hectic with a birthday party and shopping, but I managed to squeeze in 5 miles in the morning while most other members of the household were still asleep (apart from Shea, of course). It was really windy, and the weather forecast for Sunday was really bad, which made me doubt if the race would take place at all. Niamh voiced the same concerns, but we agreed we would just have to wait and see. What I didn’t get was rain, thus ending my sequence.

I rang the organisers on Sunday morning, and they confirmed that the race would go ahead as planned. It had been really bad during the night, a few things in Nana’s garden were blown over, and it had been raining for most of it, though at least that had ceased by breakfast time. Niamh had originally intended to come with me because she had never seen me finish a race, but one look out of the window changed her mind. Lola was really disappointed “I want to see Daddy race!!!”, but I ended up going out on my own. After getting lost once more and having a hard time finding a parking space, I was caught for time, and briskly ran to the racing HQ. At least it made sure I was properly warmed up. I got to the starting line 10 minutes ahead of the start, warmed up a bit more, and took my place. I looked around me and kept thinking “they don’t look like serious runners”, but I was packed in by that time and couldn’t change my starting position. It was quite ridiculous really, the first line of runners were all kids, maybe 10 years old. I hope they didn’t get trampled over, it really should have been better organised.

Anyway, a whistle sounds and off we go. As expected I’m held back by the traffic, and it takes a good while and a lot of weaving to finally get some open space. The first km is mostly gentle uphill, and I cross the 1k mark in 4:07 (6:37 pace). It was a bit wind-assisted as well. The second km is rather flat, and the wind comes from the side as well as behind, and I’m still overtaking runner after runner. That’s quite unusual; normally I start slower than other people, and start overtaking them from about a third of the race distance. This time I overtake plenty of people during the first 2 km, pretty much hold my position for the next 2km, and then pass a few more runners towards the end. Anyway, the second km passes in about 4:00 minutes (6:26 pace), which is probably down to the fact that I’m no longer stuck in traffic. At around the half way mark things start to get ugly. Not only can I clearly feel the effect of the pace in my calves, after a left-hand turn we run straight into the wind. Ugh. I battle on, but it really is hard work. My breathing is fine, but at one stage we cross a very small hill, a really pathetic one, maybe 10 feet high, but my breathing immediately goes haywire, and I really have to push hard to keep going. The wind is noticeable in my split, the third km takes about 4:12 (6:45 pace). At some stage during the fourth km we start going downhill, which at least gives me the chance to catch my breath again for the last push. I’m hurting pretty bad by now, but I guess the others around me hurt even more, because the overtaking starts again. Despite this, this is my slowest km at 4:18 (6:55 pace). I try to switch into a higher gear for the last push, but I haven’t got much more to give, my HR is already at 190, which is nearly my max. With about 0.5 km to go we start climbing again, which is a very unwelcome surprise, and I really strain to push up that blasted hill. The last stretch is downhill again, and I run and run and run and then I cross the line in 20:47, which makes it another 4:00 km, and it’s a new PR, hurray. I didn’t know what to expect from this race, just 5 weeks after the Dublin marathon and only three weeks into my training, but a PR is a PR, and if I can run one on so little training I’m bound to improve further. It was more downhill than uphill, but that barely makes up for the congestion at the start. The next 5k is on New Year’s Day, and if I manage to go easy on the bubbly the night before I’m reasonably confident that today’s PR will be a short-lived one.

We got quite lucky with the weather, about 20 minutes after I cross the line the rain starts again, and the wind picks up to gale force once more. Not nice, but I guess I should be grateful that the race conditions were somewhat ok.

For the rest of the day I’ll try and send good vibes into Mike’s directions. If he runs anything like he’s capable of, he will run a truly amazing time in California today. You go Mike!

2 Dec: ~5 miles, 42:50, 8:34 pace, avg. HR 160
3 Dec: 5 miles, including a 5k in 20:47 (6:42 pace), avg. HR 182

Weekly mileage: 50 miles

Friday, December 01, 2006

Ups and Downs

The weather seems to change every day, yesterday we had storms and flooding, today it’s nice and nearly wind still, and the weekend is going to be atrocious again, apparently. This running in bad weather thingy that I have going will be continuing for some time yet, I seems.

Yesterday’s conditions were truly brutal. I ran 7 miles, the rain came down nearly horizontally, and the trees made noises that I would have preferred not to hear. I changed my planned route after a few miles, because my original loop would have had me running two or three miles in a completely exposed area, and I settled for a more sheltered road. It was still bad, and about 5 people at work asked me rather incredulously “you didn’t run today, did you?”. Tellingly, Niamh didn’t say anything though. I guess she’s resigned by now.

Today’s run was in marked contrast to that, the weather was positively benign, and the few raindrops I felt only served the purpose of keeping my sequence alive. I got stopped by one tourist (American, judging from the accent) who had completely lost his way; the main Killorglin to Killarney road was closed due to flooding and he had gotten completely lost on the back roads. I gave him directions, and hope he managed to find the way. Later on I literally stumbled across a barrier of my own, a tree had fallen right across the road, and I do mean right across the road. I had to climb through the branches to be able to continue on my journey. That was the only incident though; I didn’t encounter any dogs, fast cars or high winds for the rest of the run.

Andrew left a comment on my last post that had me thinking a bit (which I presume was his intention). Basically he suggested (or at least I think he did) I drop all fancy things like hills, strides and tempo and just increase my mileage up to 100 miles. He also sounded a bit critical of my present mileage base? Well, Andrew, the main reason why I hesitate to go to 100 miles is the fact that I’m afraid it would leave me injured. I have only been running for 2.5 years, and the first year consisted of nothing but 1 or 2 runs per week. I only took up running seriously about 18 months ago when I started training for my fall 2005 marathon. On my last training cycle I cranked up my max mileage from 55 to 70 miles. This time round I intend to go a bit further, maybe 80 or 85 miles, I’ll play it by ear. I don’t want to be impatient and jump to a mileage that my body might not be able to handle yet. I don’t deny that high mileage would improve me as a runner (in fact, I wholeheartedly subscribe to that theory), I just try to turn the dial in a more restrained manner. If this training cycle goes well, I might try 100 mpw next time round.

30 Nov: 7 miles, 1:00, 8:34 pace, avg. HR 153, very bad weather
1 Dec: 8.5 miles, 1:12, 8:28 pace, avg. HR 157, hilly

Mileage for November: 110

Consecutive days in the rain: 18